2am coffee breaks, early morning bike rides and tired eyes – It must be Le tour de France.

Tired eyes return to Melbourne mornings in July as avid cyclists and amateurs hover over their television screens with baited breathe for three weeks of sleep deprivation, caffeine driven work days and trips to the pharmacist for eye drops. It is time for Le Tour de France. As many attempt to include the late night SBS viewing (10pm EST – 2am EST) into their normal daily lives, others; eager men, rise at 5am for their morning ride fuelled with ambition from the previous nights viewing, driven by a mere three hours sleep and hyped up on prospect of their own stage win.

The thrill of the event is only heightened by the superb commentary of SBS commentators, Phil Liggett, Matthew Keenan and Mike Tomalaris who have spectacular voices. Despite being considered one of the most thrilling and important events in world sport, Le Tour at times, can be somewhat repetitive yet the tones of these men make for easy background listening. The constant interruption of the “church chopper” from the race, doubles as a history lesson, as the commentators rattle off odd facts and notes about the castles, towns and churches the riders fly past.

If it weren’t for France 2’s restricted and exclusive coverage, the world would have full live coverage from the start of each stage. Instead SBS are forced to show only the second half of each stage from around 11pm EST. This does however pave the way for my favourite segment; Taste le Tour hosted by our very own Frenchman, Gabriel Gate.  French accent and all as he travels ahead of the bike race to taste the wines, cheeses and rich stews of the many French regions to share with us at home.

Food and commentary aside, the race truly is a wonderful event. The strength and determination of these men (doping aside) is something to pay attention to. The crashes and spills make you cringe with pain as flesh and open wounds hang off the cyclist’s elbows and knees. These “minor” injuries don’t seem to phase them as in no time, the team car is by their side with a brand new $10,000 bike for them to mount and off they go again, chasing the peleton up the mountain in the hope for a team win. The Tour is a true team sport filled with sacrifice after sacrifice that both mentally and physically drain these men. It is an incredible event and I am looking forward to my tired eyes this July.

SBS and Tour highlights to look out for this year:

–       Gabriel Gate’s authentic, seasonal French recipes on Taste le Tour

–       Another win by Cadel Evans (my money (and everyone else’s) is on Chris Froome)

–       Peter Sagan losing to Mark Cavendish (all egos aside)

–       Road side toilet stops (for the ladies)

–       Lance Armstrong references

–       Phil Liggett’s commentary (I will marry his voice)

The Tour de France starts on Saturday 29th June at 10pm Australian EST and runs through to 21st July on SBS, SBS 2 and online at http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/